How To Choose References when Applying to a New Job

You may find yourself asking, “Do hiring managers still ask for references?” The answer is yes. In the competitive and stressful world of job hunting, the importance of professional references cannot be overstated. They serve as the witness to your professional reputation, providing potential employers with insights into your work ethic, skills, and character.

Selecting the right references is a strategic move that can make or break your job application, regardless of industry or position.
Here's a quick guide on who, what, when, and how to choose the best professional references to showcase your talents and enhance your chances of landing that dream contract.

Who Should I List as a Reference?
When choosing your references, you want to be conscious and careful about who you’re asking. One thing to keep in mind is their relevance to the position you’re applying for. Consider individuals who have witnessed your skills in action and can speak to your ability to excel in that specific role.

Choose character references who have had a
direct professional relationship with you. Supervisors, managers, and coworkers who have worked closely with you can provide honest insights into your work habits, teamwork, and overall performance. Avoid selecting friends or family members as references, as their opinions may be seen as biased.

You will want to choose references from different
facets of your professional life. This could include a former supervisor, a peer, and a subordinate if applicable. Each reference can provide unique insights into your abilities and work style, presenting a well-rounded view of you at work.

What Qualities Should Professional References Have?
Your references should be individuals who can provide positive and constructive feedback about your performance. While they may highlight your strengths, they should also be able to discuss areas where you have shown growth and improvement. This balanced perspective adds credibility to their endorsement. A tenured colleague or supervisor who is well known and respected in your industry can also add some weight to your application.

Additionally, ensure your references are known for their professionalism, as employers may take their opinions more seriously.
Look for references who have strong communication skills. A reference who can articulate your strengths and accomplishments clearly and persuasively is invaluable.

If possible, choose individuals who are not only familiar with your work but can also speak eloquently about it.
Some companies also require a reference letter or survey, so let your references know what is required of them when you ask them to be a reference on your behalf.

Here is an example of a professional recommendation letter:

Sample Reference Letter

Should I List a Reference That I Haven't Worked With Recently?
In short, no. Pick references who are familiar with your recent work. Ideally, these should be individuals you have worked with in the past two to five years. This ensures that your references can speak to your current skills, accomplishments, and professional growth, giving employers a relevant and up-to-date perspective.

The best way to do this is to maintain an ongoing professional relationship with your references, even if you're not actively job hunting. Keep them updated on your career progress and reciprocate by offering to be a reference for them if needed. This ensures that your references remain familiar with your achievements and can provide current and relevant information when called upon. 
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Reference Etiquette: Dos and Don'ts
Before listing someone as a reference, ask for their permission. This courtesy not only respects their time but also allows them to prepare them for potential calls or emails from prospective employers. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss your career goals and ensure they are comfortable endorsing you for the position.

Make sure to also consider any specific company policies. Some companies have specific protocols regarding references. Ensure you are aware of and adhere to these guidelines. This may involve checking if the company prefers references from certain positions or if they have specific forms or formats for reference submissions. Also, don’t forget to thank your references after your interview or after you get the job! 

The selection of professional references is a critical aspect of the job application process. Choosing the wrong reference could cost you valuable time in a fast-moving job market, or even worse, cost you a chance at that dream position.

This is especially true in healthcare when candidates are applying to contract positions. Healthcare recruiters often are unable to reach individuals listed as professional references, and that can disqualify nurses and other healthcare professionals from being submitted to a high-paying contract position. This is why it's so critical to give  your references a heads up that they will be receiving a phone call, text, or email from your potential new employer.

Thoughtful consideration, coupled with strategic choices, can significantly enhance your chances of securing that coveted position in 2024. Choose references who know you well, can speak to your strengths, and are willing to advocate for your success. By investing time and effort into this aspect of your
job search, you are not only building a robust professional network but also setting the stage for a successful career journey. 

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